becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street

Peter Howe

I am lying in a darkened room. It is bright outside but the curtains are drawn, not so much for the light as for the people. I cannot bear them peering into the shame and confusion of my soul, the despair and fear.

I am 42. I have suffered chronic exhaustion for 14 years. Now, my old companion depression has returned as well. It is like a mountain blocking my way, a black presence.

After years of therapies, tests and diagnoses, I have been told that I am healthy; there is nothing wrong with me. I have run out of excuses.

After a lifetime of knowing I am gay but not facing it, the AIDS crisis of the 80s has made me think honestly about homosexuality and myself. Ideas arose then that AIDS was God’s judgement of gay people, or nature’s way of dealing with ‘unnatural relationships’. It is difficult to admit to, but I remember entertaining these ideas: these thoughts were alive in me. Dismissing them as irrational, emotionally immature and morally wrong enabled me to start thinking about myself in a new way. Perhaps my own nature was not some kind of divine judgement or aberration of nature. In fact it was irrational and morally wrong to judge others, and myself, like that. In remaining closeted, I was condoning the attack on gay people. I had dedicated my life to being helpful and caring and liked by everyone, and I had ended up a Nazi – not an active perpetrator but one of the passive, silent collaborators who say nothing but let it happen.

In the darkened room, I have run out of choices. There is only one thing I can do: I listen to what my depression is trying to say to me. I have never listened to this voice before, only suffered its terrible presence.

At last I admit: the pain caused by denial is worse than the pain of facing the truth.

I accept that I am gay.

I turn around.

The black mountain is behind me.

I take a first step towards the sun.

I am no longer afraid.

It is a beautiful destiny.

I am so happy.

There is everything to do.

There is my family to look after: what will this mean for my wife, my sixteen-year-old daughter, my fourteen-year-old son, and my three-year-old son?

There are all my friends to include: I will discover who my friends really are; I will meet new friends. It seems impossible to find a boyfriend at this age, but I will try. I will fall in love for the first time. I will make love to a man; we will live together for a while. I will study art.

There are feelings to explore: the world of my feelings is only just being born. I will try to live authentically. I will continue to struggle to awaken. I can’t undo the hurt I’ve caused but I can acknowledge it by trying to live according to my truth.

There is so much to deal with, more than I could have imagined, but I have strength, more than I have ever had.

I never have serious depression again; I never suffer chronic exhaustion again.

My life starts. I am 42.